Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 100, Issue 5, pp 331–350 | Cite as

Movement curvature planning through force field internal models

  • Biljana Petreska
  • Aude BillardEmail author
Original Paper


Human motion studies have focused primarily on modeling straight point-to-point reaching movements. However, many goal-directed reaching movements, such as movements directed towards oneself, are not straight but rather follow highly curved trajectories. These movements are particularly interesting to study since they are essential in our everyday life, appear early in development and are routinely used to assess movement deficits following brain lesions. We argue that curved and straight-line reaching movements are generated by a unique neural controller and that the observed curvature of the movement is the result of an active control strategy that follows the geometry of one’s body, for instance to avoid trajectories that would hit the body or yield postures close to the joint limits. We present a mathematical model that accounts for such an active control strategy and show that the model reproduces with high accuracy the kinematic features of human data during unconstrained reaching movements directed toward the head. The model consists of a nonlinear dynamical system with a single stable attractor at the target. Embodiment-related task constraints are expressed as a force field that acts on the dynamical system. Finally, we discuss the biological plausibility and neural correlates of the model’s parameters and suggest that embodiment should be considered as a main cause for movement trajectory curvature.


Motor control Neural control of movement Dynamical systems Computational model Goal-directed reaching movements 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Learning Algorithms and Systems LaboratoryEcole Polytechnique Fédérale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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